Academic journal article Journal of Drug Issues

Substance Use among Czech Adolescents: An Overview of Trends in the International Context

Academic journal article Journal of Drug Issues

Substance Use among Czech Adolescents: An Overview of Trends in the International Context

Article excerpt

The rapid dissemination of drug use among adolescents in the Czech Republic and other Central and Eastern European countries during the 1990s had a significant impact on health care and social services for this population group. This paper describes the current situation related to drug use among adolescents in the Czech Republic and in other European countries and discusses several attitudinal and behavioral correlates of drug use among young people. The results presented here have been extracted from a database of the European School Survey on Alcohol and Other Drugs (ESPAD) from 1995, 1999, and 2003. At the time of data collection, the average age of respondents in the sample was 15.4 years. Marijuana was the most common illicit substance used by European adolescents. The results also showed a marked increase in the number of adolescents who use substances repeatedly between 1995 and 2003. A marked increase in the popularity of ecstasy occurred in the same period. Between 1999 and 2003, the use of opiates and amphetamines in the Czech Republic decreased slightly. Attitudinal variables indicate that Czech adolescents tend to be more tolerant towards selected forms of drug using behavior than are their peers in Europe. The policy by which society tries to confront drug related health and social issues includes an expansion of the network of specialized facilities for treatment and resocialization and long-term programs in the field of prevention. In the future, the significance of programs that focus on early detection and intervention will increase.

INTRODUCTION

Substance use among adolescents began to spread in developed countries during the post World War II economic development, and this trend has been especially accelerated since the 1960s. This new socially significant phenomenon represented a marked change in young people's lifestyles, and it also contributed to undesirable health consequences and specific forms of crime. Attempts to monitor the extent of drug use among the population were a logical outgrowth of society's response to this trend (Bauman & Phongsavan, 1999). In these efforts, school questionnaire surveys became one of the most commonly used forms of information gathering about drug use. The research work of a team led by Lloyd Johnston at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor is now credited with having significantly advanced the research methodologies in this field. Their project, Monitoring the Future (Johnston, O'Malley, & Bachman, 2002), has been carried out each year since 1975 and has markedly influenced similar surveys being conducted elsewhere in the world. In other countries too, regularly repeated surveys are used to monitor trends among drug users and to assess the degree of success of national drug policies as measured by reductions in repeated use, a hardening of attitudes toward use, and the like (e.g., Adlaf, Paglia, & Beitchman, 2002).

Several representative surveys that focused on the extent of smoking, alcohol use, and substance use among adolescents were carried out in the Czech Republic in the 1990s (Miovský & Urbánek, 2001; Polanecký et al., 2001). The international project ESPAD (European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs) (Hibell, 1999; Hibell et al., 1997; Hibell et al., 2000; Hibell et al., 2004) occupies a special position among them. In terms of methodology, the project is more or less an adaptation of the Monitoring the Future survey that has been especially developed for European conditions. The consistent utilization of a uniform research methodology in all of the countries participating in the project provides for high comparability between the results.

The aim of this paper is to sum up the situation regarding drug use among the general adolescent population in the Czech Republic and to compare that with the situation that exists in other European countries.

METHOD

The ESPAD school questionnaire survey was first carried out in 1995 under the auspices of the Council of Europe (Pompidou Group) in 26 European countries. …

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